The International Agricultural Centre (IAC) in Wageningen is in trouble. The centre has to restyle its consultancy work, because the Minister for International Cooperation, Jan Pronk, is planning to drastically cut back the number of development projects and missions and replace them with broad development programmes. Secondly, the WAU wants a strategic alliance with the IAC on international education, in order to integrate the management of WAU's MSc courses and the twenty short training courses offered by IAC. During the time that the IAC has been struggling over its future policy, the animosity between the centre's director and personnel has increased. An external committee has now been set up to advise on the future of IAC. It is rumoured that IAC may lose its independent position.
The lactic acid bacteria, which make milk sour, are being studied by fifty graduates in the Netherlands. Cocktails of the lactic bacteria have been used for many years to make yoghurts, cheese and salami sausages, but they can also be used for food conservation, flavouring food and as a thickening agent for instant food and health drinks, such as Yakult and Biogarde yoghurts. The food industry wants to use lactic bacteria to lower its production costs and to improve the products' safety," says Dr De Vos, chair in Microbiology, who supervises some of the twenty graduates in the Vlag research institute of the WAU. New DNA techniques can improve the bacteria used for certain purposes, and several funding agencies are pouring an increasing amount of money into this field of science.
However, there are also WAU graduates who are not paid by the university. Because the number of female graduates is still lower than the intended gender balance, the university created an arrangement for eight unpaid female graduates in 1993. Marijke Kreukniet is the first one to graduate. For five years, she had a part-time job in the department of Animal Husbandry while she was doing her research. She had to write her thesis without payment. She doesn't know if she would take this opportunity again. You have to sign for four years and have to work hard, but you have to find your income somewhere else. The WAU also organised no child care, so it ended up costing me money to graduate."
You may have noticed the cold during the past months. The river Rhine is nearly frozen over, and the barges are having difficulty navigating it. Last time the river froze was in 1963. In that year, the Elfstedentocht skating marathon in Friesland was held, but this year the prediction is that this major Dutch skating event will not be held, because the strong wind is causing ice-holes and the temperature should rise again at the weekend.